Top Female Poets

Oftentimes in my sound healing or yoga classes, I find myself searching for poetry to read at the end of the class.  I notice I tend to lean towards the works of David Whyte, Mark Nepo, Rumi, and Hafiz.  But who were my top female poets? In honor of Women’s History month, I want to share top female poets who I have turned to over the years. 

Rupi Kaur

Rupi Kaur is on fire the past several years.  She is a 30 year old Indian Canadian female, whose work has inspired women of all ages with her poetry touching on issues such as sexual assault, love, sexism, femininity, and migration.  The tours she offers sell out frequently throughout the world, and often her work includes an artistic component.  To find out more about her check out her page One piece I love of hers is:

if you were born with 

the weakness to fall

you were born with

the strength to rise

Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver was an American poet who was born in 1935 and died in 2019.  Themes in her work came from elements in nature and animals.  She has won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.  An Ohioan by birth (as am I), she later moved to New England, and would take solitary walks in the woods for inspiration.  One book that truly resonated with me was called Dog Songs, where she discusses our connection with our beloved canines.  But I feel what she is most known for is a quote from her poem Summer Day that ends with:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

With your one wild and precious life?

Sharon Olds

Sharon Olds is an American poet born in 1942.  I believe I was introduced to her and her work through the podcast On Being.  She is also winner of the Pulitzer Prize and is a professor at NYU.  Her work has focused on family, the erotic, and taboo.  One book particular called Odes, included odes to tampons, cleavage, and stretch marks.  In Ode to the Clitoris, the ending stands out for me: 

you are the ground of our being, the tiny

 figure of the human, the hooded stranger who

comes to the door, and if we bless her we will be blessed

Edna St. Vincent Millay

 Edna St. Vintcent Millay was an American poet and playwright who lived from 1892-1950.  I was introduced to her through reading a historical fiction based in the 1920s, and she seemed to be such a firecracker character.  I was curious to who this person was and wanted to know more.  Edna also won the Pulitzer Prize and was a feminist in the 1920s, was openly bisexual, and some of her pieces focused on this aspect of her life.  Her work also focused on heartbreaks, nature, and death.   In her poem What My Lips Have Kissed, and Where and Why these lines speak to me:

 I cannot say what loves have come and gone,

I only know that summer sang in me

A little while, that in me sings no more 

Alice Walker

Alice Walker is an African American novelist, activist, and poet.  She is most known for her work The Color Purple, which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.  Her work focuses on the themes of race, nature, heritage, activism, feminism, and relationships.  In her work “Women” these words reverberate through me 

How they knew what we

Must know

Without knowing a page

Of it

Amanda Gorman

Amanda Gorman is a 25 year old African American poet and activist. Predominant themes in her work include feminism, race, oppression, and marginalization  She read a poem at President Joe Biden’s inauguration.  I had to hear that several times to take it in, particularly the following lines.  

Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true.

That even as we grieved, we grew.

That even as we hurt, we hoped.

That even as we tired, we tried.

That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.

Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.

Tracy K Smith

Tracy K Smith is an African American poet whose work focuses on loss, grief, and roles of race and family.   I listened to the podcast The Slowdown, when she was the initial host, which introduced us to poetry from numerous poets in the world, and how the poem impacted her everyday life.  Her explanations made poetry real and tangible for me.  The beginning of her poem Everything That Ever Was reverberates in me:

Like a wide wake, rippling
Infinitely into the distance, everything

That ever was still is, somewhere,
Floating near the surface, nursing
Its hunger for you and me

As we end this Women’s history month, how do you feel about this list of top female poets?  Do you gravitate to poets who are currently still alive or those who lived centuries ago? Popular or the unknown? Who would make your list of the top female poets?

Check out a previous blog post of mine regarding the top 5 self help books

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One Comment

  1. Stacey Levey

    To the administrator, Your posts are always a great source of knowledge.

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